Dick Texas Processes Grief with Debut Single “Flies”

Photo Credit: Jamie Sanchez-Skriba

There is no one way to grieve. Losing someone you love is one of the hardest parts of moving through life, and it often alters the way we see the world and ourselves. Valerie Salerno’s new solo project, Dick Texas, was formed out of a need to process her own grief and find a cathartic way to deal with the deaths of two of her closest friends. “I think that grief is something that just sticks in you,” says the Grand Rapids-based artist. “The best way to deal with it is to just put it into music. It just completely listens to you.” 

In her first single as Dick Texas, Salerno uses dark synth tones and distorted recordings of her late friend telling a story to paint a portrait of her unique experience with grief. Before starting this project, Salerno played in Sojii, a noise-rock outfit that often prioritized a harsh sound over identifiable lyricism. She says that part of starting Dick Texas was fueled by her desire to be fully heard. “In a band, I kept hitting this wall where I couldn’t be heard musically and creatively,” says Salerno. “So, I was like, I’m gonna sit down and write all these songs by myself so I cant blame it on anyone else.” 

This was in the spring of 2019, right before the pandemic started. She had decided to quit Sojii and start experimenting with synths. Shortly after, two of her best friends passed away. “Flies” deals with the painful fallout surrounding this tragedy and the exceptionally poignant agony of grieving in near solitude. “Never realized how full I was when I could always find you out there,” Salerno sings, starting the song with a familiar echo of taking loved ones for granted while they’re still here. She explains that the first lyrics for the song were spurred when she and a few friends were clearing out their late friend’s room. 

“We were walking through [his] room, cleaning out his stuff and the air felt so palpable and thick and tangible,” Salerno says. That’s when she wrote down the song’s first lyric in her notes app: “The air in the room can’t hold its own head up.” It’s a perfect way to encapsulate grief – as if the air is absorbing the darkness around it and falling prey to the same sadness as the people who are breathing it in.

Salerno explains that although she sang in Sojii, a lot of it was screaming, and even that was often drowned out by other instruments or loud feedback. She says it’s been refreshing to have control over how her words are received. “Words and literature are my first love,” says Salerno. “I didn’t start playing music until I was ten but I was reading and writing before that so it’s really special to have that [voice] heard.” And while Salerno’s lyrics are poetic, she makes sure to communicate exactly what she’s feeling without fluff or euphemisms. “As a person, I hate small talk. It literally gives me panic attacks,” Salerno shares. “I don’t think I’m special in my loss and pain; I think everyone feels those things. People should feel better about being able to share them.” 

Although Salerno’s right about the universality of loss and grief, her ability to distill the complexities of these feelings into a three-minute song is something that doesn’t come around often. She honors her friends by preserving the humanity of their relationship – the fights, the drunken nights and the feeling of home that comes when you’re around true friends. “I wish we could argue again/In flesh and blood/With words that cut/Like we’ve done before/Got a lot of poison in my soul.” Salerno lets herself miss every part of the friends she lost, to the point where she realizes it’s consuming her. “I wanna do more than just miss you,” she sings in a voice that mirrors the monotone of emotional exhaustion. 

“Flies” is the culmination of Salerno’s grief, anger, sadness and resolve to heal. After a months-long bender of grieving with friends and loved ones, she turned to her music as an alternative coping mechanism. “I sat down and was like, okay, I’m not gonna drink anymore, I’m not gonna feel bad for myself. I’m just gonna start putting those feelings into music,” she remembers. “Flies” (and its intro, “Prelude to Flies”) are the first iteration of that healing process and a sobering reminder to love your friends while they’re still here. 

Follow Dick Texas on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Lipstick Jodi gives the gift of catharsis in new single “Take Me Seriously”

Photo Credit: Hwa-Jeen Na

In the world of pop music, it’s easy to get put in a category; the “edgy” one, the “hot mess,” the “Queen.” Or, if you’re Karli Morehouse of Grand Rapids indie-pop outfit Lipstick Jodi, the “gay” one. The non-binary songwriter and artist has spent years being labeled and pigeonholed because of their identity and is more than ready to break the constricting molds embedded into the foundation of pop music culture. On their latest single, “Take Me Seriously,” premiering today via Audiofemme, Morehouse brings their frustrations and anxieties to the forefront and gives listeners the chance to do the same. Following the band’s previous single “Notice,” as well as a remix by Now Now, “Take Me Seriously” will appear on the band’s sophomore LP More Like Me, out June 4th via Quite Scientific.

As one of the only openly queer kids in their Midwestern high school growing up, Morehouse has grown accustomed to standing out. And as hard as it was to find people like them in their community, it was even harder to find pop artists that reflected them. Aside from one of Morehouse’s all-time favorite artists, Tegan and Sara, it felt like every big pop star adhered to a very specific set of aesthetic and sonic standards. Nevertheless, Morehouse fell in love with everything about pop music. “This is all I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” they explain.  

Raised on ’80s icons like Prince, Cher and Pat Benatar, Morehouse’s songwriting is imbued with nostalgic synths and infectious melodies, as is evident on “Take Me Seriously.” Marrying their power pop instincts with a desire for inclusivity, Morehouse’s lyrics are intentionally vague, leaving room for people to imbue the song with their own meaning. “They’re specific to me, but… they’re kind of vague statements that can give whoever is listening something to hold on to,” says Morehouse.

They explain that this elasticity is inspired by seeing themselves and other queer artists get tossed around in an echo chamber instead of breaking through to larger audiences.

“I’ve always found that a lot of queer artists just end up playing to queer people, which is fine,” says Morehouse. “But I wanted to reach across the board and just play to whoever wants to listen.” They explain that well-intentioned playlists and charts highlighting “women in music” and “LBGTQ+ musicians” can further isolate marginalized musicians rather than integrating them into the pop mainstream. “If anyone calls me a ‘female artist’ one more time, I swear to god,” says Morehouse. “Not only am I non-binary, but it doesn’t matter, I’m a musician.”

And as the lead singer/songwriter for Lipstick Jodi, Morehouse flexes their lifetime of diverse musicianship. Aside from absorbing the romance and robustness of ’80s pop, they were interested in piano and guitar from an early age. Their grandfather, a career musician, gave them their first kid-sized piano and encouraged them to explore other instruments. “My mom didn’t want to commit me to anything and make me hate it, ‘cause that’s kind of what happened to her,” says Morehouse.

From there came countless performances, including a LeAnn Rimes cover, forming their first band in ninth grade and hitting up the Grand Rapids, Michigan coffee shop and brewery circuit. They founded Lipstick Jodi back in 2014, but only started honing in on their sparkly, synth-driven sound in the last few years. Starting out, Morehouse was quickly introduced to the closed minds of certain audience members or talent buyers. “They would call us the gay band and the girl band all the time,” they say. “I was just like, good job for recognizing a haircut? I don’t know why you’re upset.”

In “Take Me Seriously,” Morehouse distills a universal angst, applicable to anyone experiencing heartbreak, setbacks or haters. Razor sharp guitars, bold percussion and potent vocals deliver their cathartic message of pain and resilience. “I’m able to put whatever anxiety, whatever depression I’m feeling into a statement,” says Morehouse, “and kind of hide behind it and give it to somebody else.” 

Follow Lipstick Jodi on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

PLAYING DETROIT: Dear Tracks: “Aligning with the Sun”



Grand Rapids-based dream pop duo, Dear Tracks, excites with their politely warped and shimmery new track “Aligning with the Sun” which debuted earlier this week. Matt Messore and Victoria Ovenden found a way to give a soundtrack to dust particles colliding within a shaft of mid-afternoon light.

The arrangement, which is synth heavy, glitters without much deviation or elevation and manages to avoid sounding monotonous. A refreshingly melodic warble, “Aligning with the Sun” could easily be inspired by the tilt-a-whirl motion of a cassette tape being tangled within the cassette player, dancing with distortion.

The firecracker percussions and the twinkling, distant guitar paired with Ovenden’s misty vocals keeps Dear Tracks in good musical company, such as Real Estate and My Bloody Valentine. The opposite of anxious, the duo’s first track off of their anticipated debut LP (due out on The Native Sound records) is a bitter sweet (though, mostly sweet) end-of-summer breeze.

Daydream with Dear Tracks latest below:

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PLAYING DETROIT: Dear Tracks “All The Outs Are Free”


Think John Hughs meets Beach House topped with whipped cream, a cherry, and that mix tape your imaginary boyfriend would have made you in the early 90’s. This is the essence of “All The Outs Are Free,” the new single from Grand Rapids-based dream pop four piece, Dear Tracks. I first met Dear Tracks at an intimate outdoor shoe gaze/indie pop festival I MC’d this past summer. Though their stage presence was quiet and unassuming, their bubbling, contemplative, synth pop vibes filled the open space while I sprawled my bare legs out into the grass, taking note of the toggle of control between the setting sun and the rising moon. I remember being transported, though carefully, to what felt like a video game bonus level, but in real life and real time. Comprised of Matt Messore, Victoria Ovenden, Jacob Juodawlkis and Alex Militello, Dear Tracks are not a force as much as they are a caress (and perhaps even a productive cry behind a steering wheel).

The single from their forthcoming EP Soft Dreams (due out on vinyl and cassette February 26th, 2016) borderline exhausts lyrical platitudes by smashing a series of ambiguous, flighty phrases together: “Don’t drift away/stay if you can/come as you are/I’ll let you in.” This doesn’t come as an insult, though, quite the contrary. “All The Outs Are Free” is a hazy, minimalistic petit four. Paired with swaying synth sounds, their elementary expression of love, loss, and longing is cocooned tightly and effectively. There are no smoke and mirrors, nor any unnecessary details neither lyrically or in regards to composition; there’s no mess to sort through. With this single, Dear Tracks found a way to surprise me in not sounding like they were trying to surprise me. Floating in a sea of seasonal over-orchestrated, heavy handed production, this taste of candied candor is fresh and restorative.

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